Turn back the pages — August 20, 1977
Compiled by Julie Rosier
Erosion As Old As The Hills — Editor’s note: Each year the winding Kuskokwim River cuts into the river bank removing needed and sometimes used land. Since 1935, alarmed residents have asked for help stemming the erosion with no success. The gradual erosion experienced over the years has suddenly turned into violent scarring of the Bethel waterfront, with major damage severing the back road to the hospital and seriously endangering the oil storage tank farm. A deep canyon extending well over 50 feet toward the hospital has eroded in the past few weeks close to downtown Bethel. The following article begins a two-part series on erosion and what the options may be for saving what remains of Bethel.
Part 1: It’s true, as long as there has been land above sea level, there has been erosion. Erosion is the constant wearing down of the land, by water, wind and chemicals. Water is the primary agent in the erosion process. Rain falls and as a drop hits and begins to run off, it carries particles of material called sediment. The faster the water moves the larger particles it can carry. So, in other words, the steeper the terrain, the larger the particles being moved by the water. This can be seen if one looks at the good old Kuskokwim. The gravel is up river. This is because as soon as the river is on the delta, it isn’t as steep, so it slows down; the water can’t carry the heavier material, and it sinks, while the light silty material stays suspended in the slow moving water. These are some of the ways that moving water acts as an erosion agent. Water can also act as an erosion agent when it is in the form of ice. Liquid water seeps into cracks in rock and in the ground. When it freezes, it expands, pushing the two surfaces apart, thus cracking the rock or ground.
D-2 Hearings — Echoed over and over again at the Aug. 8 D-2 hearings in Bethel was the insistence upon the right of the local people to have some voice in the management of their lands and to be allowed to continue a lifestyle that has existed for thousands of years: subsistence. Formally known as the House Interior Subcommittee on General Oversight and Alaska Lands, the visiting team of seven, chaired by Sen. John Seiberling, D-Ohio, said they came to “listen and to learn.” What the subcommittee learned and heard was not something they were to hear much of in the urban areas of the state where other hearings were held. Many members of the committee agreed they did not understand the subsistence issue and that it clearly was not understood in Washington, D.C.
Ad Hoc School Group Forms — Melvin Underwood has announced the names of the officers of the Committee for Better Schools, a group of concerned citizens that is currently taking action on several school issues. At a meeting last Friday night, the group named as President, Melvin Underwood, Vice-president, Bertha Underwood, Secretary, Eileen Anaver; and Treasurer, Sarge Connick. The group has retained Mike Bell as legal counsel. The Committee for Better Schools is currently circulating a petition which calls for the termination of B.A. Weinberg, district superintendent, whose contract for the current year is on the agenda for the Aug. 19 LKSD Board meeting. In other action, the committee has contracted Senator Hohman and the Dept. of Public Works regarding delays in construction of the Kipnuk school and the crucial need for repairs to the heating system of Kilbuck School. The scheduled repairs will apparently not be made this summer, leaving students on one side of the hall in classrooms at 60 degree temperatures while other classrooms reach 90 degrees.
Judge Recommends Marine Mammal Control Be Returned to State — An administrative law judge has recommend that the management of polar bears, walruses, sea otters and six other marine mammal species be returned to the State of Alaska. Under Judge Malcolm Littlefield’s June 30 recommendation, a moratorium imposed in 1972 on taking and importing these animals, except for scientific research, public display, and Native subsistence should be waiver, and management of their population should again become the state’s responsibility. Notice of the recommended decision was published in the Federal Register on July 20. The decision is now being reviewed by the two directors of the federal agencies with marine mammal jurisdiction. Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service and the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service. Each of the two agency heads will then announce his own decision. The Fish and Wildlife Service had jurisdiction over polar bears, walruses and sea otters, and the National Marine Fisheries Service had responsibility for beluga whales, ringed seals, bearded seals, harbor seals, northern sea lions, ribbon seals and largha seals.
The River: The Way It Was —The Quickstep,”a stern wheeler, came from Nome after the gold rush there was concluded. There was some thought at first about keeping it in Nome and making a hotel out of it before it was brought to the Kuskokwim by the Kuskokwim Commercial Co. En route from Nome it burned out one of the boilers and barely staggered up to Bethel. It was refurbished with a new boiler and ran between Bethel and McGrath carrying freight. The Quickstep drew about 2.5 feet of water and burned wood. People along the river were contracted during the winter to cut wood in preparation for the summer shipping. Having been brought to the region about 1910 it was sold in 1926 to the Alaska Navigation Company. The Bender Brothers was a ship registered for 240 tons that ran between Seattle and the Kuskokwim River. Although it carried supplies north for settlements on the river, its mission was to serve the shipping needs of a salting station at Apokak, on the south bank just below Eek Island. King salmon were salted and shipped down to the states. Apokak remained in operation until a very high tide washed the salting station away. They never rebuilt it.